The Tool Restoration Process

Tools pic sm

We’ve had quite a production line going on down at Walter’s Tools HQ, with seven volunteer workdays achieving an incredible amount and the volunteers really taking ownership of the project and teaching each other what they know. We’ve had volunteers from Reading ,Yorkshire and Lancashire in addition to the majority who are from closer to home.

Once we’d dug out the tools from Walter’s barn full of various trashes and treasures, we were advised by Greta Bertram, the curator from the Museum of English Rural Life, to give them all a temporary code so each tool can be referenced without confusion during the course of renovation. So they all got a code WT  ____


We then sorted them into crates according categories of what work was needed to get them usable:

course of action

tools in crates

Thankfully over a hundred of them needed only simple sharpening and de-rusting.


But for those that needed a bit more specialist forge work, we were very grateful to have a blacksmith and tool expert, Shaun Bainbridge, on hand with his mobile forge.

Sean checks tool category

Meanwhile, Walter (above, left) reacquainted himself with many of his tools that he had not laid hands on for years, and retrieved their stories from his deep well of knowledge. This was aided by the attendance of George Haugh (above, right) who used to run a hand tool stall in Kendal market and from whom Walter had bought (or begged as the case may be!) many of his tools.

Geordie & Walter rummage

Gaps in Walter’s knowledge were complemented by referencing tool catalogues sent in by helpful folk such as Alistair Simms – the only remaining master cooper in Britian, the excellent Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools  and heritage crafts and trades books.

Walter & Paddy w billhooks

coopering catalogue book

The renovated tools were then catalogued according to quite in depth catagories, as advised by the curator from MERL – name, local/ colloquial name, trade used in, how used, materials, size, maker/ manufacturer, maker’s mark, measurements provenance, course of action required .

cataloguing close up

The catalogue sheets are and will remain a lovely relic of this project, with all the different volunteers’ drawn representations of the tools, Walter’s stories, and dirty fingerprints!

catalogue writing

They will all be digitised into a database to make borrowing the tools an easier process. So that we can add a visual database, I have also been photographing all the tools, thanks to a really effective set up provided by the amazing Dayve Ward, who has also been a dedicated volunteer.

me photographing

coopering draw knife cata image

This almost completes the process. Once we have all the renovated tools together, we shall label them permanently with codes which refer to their original catalogue sheets, with the addition of a suffix referring to tool type.

me w tools & catalogue

For now they are stored in boxes awaiting the remaining tools. Soon we shall label them and hang them on display boards, ready for display at Stott Park Bobbin Mill.

catalogues tools in crates

We are very pleased with progress and enormously grateful to the volunteers for being so committed to seeing this project through. We could not do it without them, and they have learned a lot through doing it. Walter is a unique character whose knowledge must be treasured.

If there is anybody who would still like to volunteer in the final stages of the project (a bit of sharpening, labelling and mounting on display boards) between August and October, please do get in touch ~


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